Kisses in the kitchenette tend to be counterproductive

Should romance with a colleague stay secret if you want peak workplace productivity? Or is it best to circulate the news and stop the rumour mill in its tracks?

Should romance with a colleague stay secret if you want peak workplace productivity? Or is it best to circulate the news and stop the rumour mill in its tracks?

Accountant Anna* wanted to tell co-workers about her romance with colleague John*, who worked in procurement. They worked together at one of the big four banks in Melbourne - and still do - and their relationship began in 2011.

The romance lasted about a year and, while it was never openly confirmed to co-workers, Anna says "it became pretty obvious", and when she wanted to come clean with colleagues and stop the water-cooler gossip, John still refused to tell anyone.

"He really tried to persuade me to do the same, which I went along with for a while, but towards the end I couldn't see the point and it eventually leaked out when I told a few people. Soon after we broke up and I found out he was seeing another colleague at the same time as me, so I understood why he was so big on secrecy."

Anna says keeping her office romance a secret "did impact on our productivity, definitely". Her behaviour changed; she became jumpy and distant at work.

"I now understand why it is better if your management knows because you can be separated if necessary."

Latest studies suggest up to 40 per cent of romances start at work, according to workplace relations specialist, psychologist Fred Cicchini.

Mr Cicchini, chief operations manager of corporate health management organisation Injury Treatment, says a workplace romance can be perceived as an avenue for unfair advantage over co-workers.

"Workplace productivity and the business itself can get impacted [as] a heightened romance can turn even the most ardent performer into a 'giddy' teenager ... and failed relationships can often be the catalyst for team members in or around the relationship to leave a job."

More than 70 per cent of 500 job seekers recently surveyed by recruitment marketing company Employment Office oppose forming intimate relationships at work.

Simon's* workmate is also his housemate and she has been involved with the pair's boss since July.

Simon says: "It is a small business and it is difficult as the boss is often sitting there in my lounge room, there are all these little rendezvous in the workplace kitchen and knowing looks and I get very uncomfortable about the whole thing. I haven't considered changing jobs but it is having an effect on my productivity ... I have unwittingly been made an accessory to this secret."

* Names changed to protect privacy

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